Put No One Out of Your Heart

What is an open heart? The Practice Put no one out of your heart. Why? We all know people who are, ah, . . . challenging. It could be a critical parent, a bossy supervisor, a relative who has you walking on eggshells, a nice but flaky friend, a co-worker who just doesn’t like you, a partner who won’t keep his or her agreements, or a politician you dislike. Right now I’m thinking of a neighbor who refused to pay… Read more

Tune Into Others

What Are They Feeling? The Practice Tune into others. Why? Imagine a world in which people interacted with each other like ants or fish. Imagine a day at work like this, or in your family, aware of the surface behavior of the people around you but oblivious to their inner life while they remain unmoved by your own. That’s a world without empathy. To me, it sounds like a horror film. Without empathy, there can be no real love, compassion,… Read more

Drop The Case

Who are you prosecuting? The Practice Drop the case. Why? Lately I’ve been thinking about a kind of “case” that’s been running in my mind about someone in my extended family. The case is a combination of feeling hurt and mistreated, critique of the other person, irritation with others who haven’t supported me, views about what should happen that hasn’t, and implicit taking-things-personally. In other words, the usual mess. It’s not that I have not been mistreated – actually, I… Read more

Don’t Take it Personally

Is it about you? The Practice Don’t take it personally. Why? Here’s an updated parable from the ancient Taoist teacher, Chuang-Tzu: Imagine that you are floating in a canoe on a slow-moving river, having a Sunday picnic with a friend. Suddenly there is a loud thump on the side of the canoe, and it rolls over. You come up sputtering, and what do you see? Somebody has snuck up on your canoe, flipped it over for a joke, and is… Read more

See the Person Behind the Eyes

Who is behind the mask? The Practice See the person behind the eyes. Why? Most of us wear a kind of mask, a persona that hides our deepest thoughts and feelings, and presents a polished, controlled face to the world. To be sure, a persona is a good thing to have. For example, meetings at work, holidays with the in-laws, or a first date are usually not the best time to spill your guts. Just because you’re selective about what… Read more

Keep Hope Not Fear Alive

This recent series of posts has used the example of Stephen Colbert’s satirical “March to Keep Fear Alive” as a timely illustration of a larger point: humans evolved to be fearful — a major feature of the brain’s negativity bias that helped our ancestors pass on their genes. Consequently, as much research has shown, we’re usually much more affected by negative — by which I mean painful — experiences than by positive ones. Besides the personal impacts of this bias… Read more

Confronting the Negativity Bias

My previous post used the example of Stephen Colbert’s satirical “March to Keep Fear Alive” as a timely illustration of a larger point: humans evolved to be fearful — since that helped keep our ancestors alive — so we are very vulnerable to being frightened and even intimidated by threats, both real ones and “paper tigers.” With this march, Colbert is obviously mocking those who play on fear, since we certainly don’t need any new reminders to keep fear alive…. Read more

We Don’t Need To ‘Keep Fear Alive’

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had dueling rallies in DC in October, 2010. Stewart’s was “Rally to Restore Sanity” and Colbert’s was “March to Keep Fear Alive!” Obviously, Colbert is a great satirist who was poking fun, since we sure don’t need a rally to keep fear alive. Alarming messages are all around us, like the news about global warming or the “Threat Level Orange” announcements every few minutes in the airport. Some of those messages are true and worth… Read more

Balancing Joining and Separating

There is a natural balance within us all between the desire for joining and the desire for separation, between the desire for closeness and the desire for distance. These two great themes – joining and separation – are central to human life. Almost everyone wants both of them, to varying degrees. Read more

Solstice : light in darkness

This is about this very moment.  This wonderful moment.  Have you noticed? This week is the solstice: yesterday, to be precise. The shortest day of the year, and the longest night. Typically, it’s a time of clarity and community, introspection and renewal. ‘Tis the season. Time to celebrate the light in darkness. As the Quakers remind us, “Where shalt thou seek the light if thou dost not turn within?” As the year turns, we turn with it. Such fact of… Read more




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